Just like music can be used to score movies to add to the emotions, it can have twice the effect on video games because the user is always actively engaged, making the soundtrack more memorable and, therefore, the actions associated with it. Music is what triggers nostalgia the most in video games, always giving us a way to unlock and relive our greatest gaming movements time after time again, and so, here are our top six games that have got those unforgettable soundtracks.
Introversion Software’s DEFCON has got some pretty appropriate music for the type of game that it is. Its slow-moving, sad choir music of death accompanies the mood perfectly as you launch your nuclear missiles, knowing perfectly well what’s going to happen when they make impact. It’s almost like the virtual world already knows it’s going to be annihilated to a blackened wasteland, and so chooses to paint the future picture with some pensive can’t-do-anything-about-it music, which definitely works to its advantage. Watching your nukes explode and then reading the death count is actually quite chilling, mainly because of the music that’s playing when that happens – a sign that goes to show the musical score was done right. There really isn’t that much else to say about this game, as its overall concept is very simple and straightforward, but the music fills what emotions and feelings you get from killing millions upon millions of innocent people with just the right color, making the playing experience that much more memorable.
#5: Red Dead Redemption
Here’s where things heat up. Red Dead Redemption not only sports amazing visuals, but fantastic musical score to go along with it. Nothing gets better than riding across the wide open prairie listening to that humming violin and other elements of classic Western music. The sight of the long-off mountains and other desert-like characteristics adds a unique emotional element to what the music already provides, giving this game that extra flair. The track that stands out to me the most is Jose Gonzalez’s Far Away, which in and of itself is a phenomenal piece of music. The scene where that track plays is film-like, rendering it an unforgettable gaming moment. Other music in this game is great as well, although most if it is masked by other in-game sounds and activities going on, but when you’re galloping along on the prairie or desert plains, it’s as relaxing as ever. Playing this game and hearing the music always reminds me of that scene in The Alamo(2004) where Davy Crockett plays the violin to the Mexican’s drum serenade on top of the Alamo compound, knowing the impending doom his soldiers are about to face. If a game like this reminds me of an unforgettable movie scene like that, then it’s definitely a keeper.
This game sported some pretty damn creepy music, but not to worry, it’s all extremely well placed, commenting on the mood and atmosphere the game presents very nicely. The music itself reeks of survival-horror, with screeching violin riffs, blaring horns, pounding bass drums and other eerie, lurking sound effects that all ascend into the chaos and surprises the game has in store for you. In a game like this, the music has to be just right in order for everything in the game to fall into place, and Bioshock definitely gets everything right. Play this game alone in your room at night with the lights off, and you’ll undoubtedly be falling out of your chair and jumping at the resolution of the tension that the music fills you with and that syncs flawlessly with the game’s events. Although Bioshock most certainly has its fair share of just plain creepy music, it’s also got a nice version of Beyond the Sea in it as well, a great song that fits with the game’s underwater theme and adds a nice contrast to the otherwise ominous scores. No tracks really stand out because in the general scheme of things they all sound alike, but nonetheless, they all contribute to a fantastic game full of whirling emotions.
#3: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
After popping this game in for the first time in years, the title music instantly gave me a tremendous amount of flashbacks from when all I used to do was play this game. The music in this game is majestic, beautiful, peaceful and tranquil, while at the same time booming and in-your-face. It flows with such grace as you explore the breathtaking province of Cyrodil, battling monsters, carrying out quests, making a living and doing the hundreds of other activities this awesome game has. As usual, the music that plays depends upon where you are, e.g. ominous music when exploring dungeons and enlightening music when exploring the forests and cities of Cyrodil. There are plenty of signature songs and soundtracks that stick out with this one, but for me, it’s the title music’s song, called “Reign of the Septims” that gets me every single time. Whenever I first pop this game in, I let the title music play out fully before I even touch the controller again, it’s that amazing. I’ve already got loads of nostalgia from playing this game again, and I’m still discovering more.
#2: Civilization IV
If you’re not impressed by Civilization IV’s amazing gameplay, then one thing that will always stick with you well after you’re done playing it is its music, most especially its title menu track of “Baba Yetu”, a masterpiece composed in Swahili by Christopher Tin. I don’t know what it is about African music, but it’s got such a magical and spiritual quality to it that either leaves you sitting in your chair with an overload of chills once it’s over or makes you get up and dance. Civilization IV has got some of the greatest music in a video game I have ever heard, and it all compliments the gameplay’s theme of progressing through the ages and evolving your people phenomenally. Although a majority of the music that plays throughout the gameplay is quite subtle and rather unnoticeable when you’re busying managing your nation, it’s extremely rewarding to just sit back and listen to the soundtrack progress and comment on the world in front of you, filling you with all kinds of emotions as you take time to realize the hard work you’ve put into making your nation what it is. Civilization IV is, mainly because of its music, yet another one of those games that never, ever leaves your mind once you’ve played it.
#1: Halo 3
Halo 3, however, is a completely different story. Not only does this game contain some the greatest compositions known to man, it’s got a very emotional storyline that just locks in with the music to a completely new level of amazing. Watching some of the cut scenes in this game alone is just a heart-tugging activity, topped off with some truly excellent songs to fight hordes and hordes of Brutes and other aliens with; in fact, some of the fighting songs are so great, you actually feel the need to do everything in your power to avoid death at all costs, else you’ll let your people down and presumably cause a terrible ending to planet earth, and I couldn’t be more serious in saying that. The song that stands out the most to me was the game’s signature song and motto when it was first announced, “Finish the Fight,” which is a great composition consisting of some great piano riffs and other elements that build the song. Halo 3 does such an amazing job of complimenting its gameplay with unforgettable music that it rivals the film score of most of the movies I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something. Halo 3 also contains some musical elements of its predecessor, Halo 2, which also contained some pretty kick-ass music, but Halo 3’s is better in my opinion. Some of the final scenes, quests and battles in this game are constructed to such perfection that I can still vividly remember each and every part of them, and that’s how you know the musical score was done right. Overall, I’ll never forget my experience playing Halo 3, which should’ve ended the series in my opinion because it would’ve been the absolute perfect game to do so, not only because of how well everything fits together, but because of its unforgettable soundtrack.